Assuming a Body: Transgender and Rhetorics of Materiality

Assuming a Body: Transgender and Rhetorics of Materiality

Gayle Salamon

Language: English

Pages: 240

ISBN: 023114959X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


We believe we know our bodies intimately—that their material reality is certain and that this certainty leads to an epistemological truth about sex, gender, and identity. By exploring and giving equal weight to transgendered subjectivities, however, Gayle Salamon upends these certainties. Considering questions of transgendered embodiment via phenomenology (Maurice Merleau-Ponty), psychoanalysis (Sigmund Freud and Paul Ferdinand Schilder), and queer theory, Salamon advances an alternative theory of normative and non-normative gender, proving the value and vitality of trans experience for thinking about embodiment.

Salamon suggests that the difference between transgendered and normatively gendered bodies is not, in the end, material. Rather, she argues that the production of gender itself relies on a disjunction between the "felt sense" of the body and an understanding of the body's corporeal contours, and that this process need not be viewed as pathological in nature. Examining the relationship between material and phantasmatic accounts of bodily being, Salamon emphasizes the productive tensions that make the body both present and absent in our consciousness and work to confirm and unsettle gendered certainties. She questions traditional theories that explain how the body comes to be—and comes to be made one's own—and she offers a new framework for thinking about what "counts" as a body. The result is a groundbreaking investigation into the phenomenological life of gender.

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For example, Christine Jorgensen’s autobiography, in which she claims to have no sexual feelings at all, can be read as a counterargument to the assertion that transsexuality is really “about” sexual desire rather than gender expression and that transformation of gender at the level of the body is only undertaken for the purposes of a closed circuit of sexual gratification.9 The trans body thus becomes something akin to a fetish, and those aspects of bodily transition in particular or transgender

the circulation of the terms queer and woman within feminist discourses. I have three aims in this chapter. First, I want to suggest that, if it is to reemerge as a vital discipline, women’s studies must become more responsive to emerging genders. Genders beyond the binary of male and female are neither fictive nor futural, but are presently embodied and lived. Women’s studies has not yet come to terms with this and is thus unable to assess the present state of gender as it is lived, nor is it

through a bodily ego is not to contend that body and ego are coterminous or selfsame, but to assert that projections of various kinds are required in the construction of both the ego and the body, that the ego is itself a projection, and that difference, distance, and otherness are at the heart of the ego and the body. INTERSEXUAL CHARACTERS, BINARISM, AND FREUD’S TEMPTATION Freud opens Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality with a string of provocative claims. The most startling among them

10, no. 2 (2004): 212–215. ——“The Transgender Issue: An Introduction.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 4, no. 2 (1998): 145–158. Stryker, Susan, and Stephen Whittle. The Transgender Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 2006. Sullivan, Nikki. A Critical Introduction to Queer Theory. New York: New York University Press, 2003. Tea, Michelle. “Transmissions from Camp Trans.” Believer, November 2003, pp. 61–81. Thomson, Rosemarie Garland. Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the

and sexuality; and surgery; and violence; and women; see also FTM; transmen Merleau-Ponty, Maurice: Sara Ahmed on; on ambiguity; on body; on body schema; Judith Butler on; critique of Cartesianism; critique of Freud; critique of phenomenological reduction; Jacques Derrida’s critique of; Rosalyn Diprose on; and ethics; on flesh; Luce Irigaray’s critique of; and masculinism; on perception; on phantasms; on proprioception; and queer theory; Henry Rubin on; and Sartrean gaze; and Paul Schilder; on

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